Exclusive: Gun Garb

A Pro Pistol-Packer’s Picks For Concealment Clothing

Massad Ayoob
Photos: Gail Pepin

The stiff canvas of the Armadillo vest allows you to quickly clear the garment and access your pistol.

I’ve seen gun magazine articles on how to hide a gun titled “Dressed to Kill.” It’s a cute play on words, but not the right words. Law-abiding people dress to protect ourselves and others with such garb and gear.

The vests produced by Armadillo Concealment, a company recently purchased by holster-maker Comp-Tac, are a good example. Back when I shot with Team Panteao, all of us including world champion Bob Vogel were issued Armadillo Concealment vests. They were geared for the fastest possible draw for concealed carry competition, and they lived up to their design parameters.

Made of relatively heavy canvas, they cleared a path to the holstered handgun as soon as your pinky finger or the heel of your hand touched the front edge of the vest, because the fabric was so stiff there was no chance of it folding or fouling the draw. We joked that there was another reason it was fast: “With all the sponsor logos on it, it’s so ugly any self-respecting gun wants to get out from under it sooner.”

I recently got a new sample of the current production vest. It’s lighter and more comfortable, but still very fast. It doesn’t have the plethora of pockets you expect with a photographer’s or fisherman’s vest. There’s a breast pocket for scoresheets or whatever, and two capacious canvas pockets down near beltline which close with Velcro. A combination of pleating and Velcro lets you set the pockets to gape open—allowing fast stowage of anything you have to pick up and run with. They’re also a quickly accessible repository for partially depleted magazines during tactical reloads, even while running. The armholes are large and don’t restrict arm or shoulder movement in any way.

I tested my new sample at an IDPA match in Valdosta, Georgia, on an unseasonably cold day where I was grateful for the added warmth of the canvas construction. It allowed me to win overall in the Concealed Carry Pistol division, shooting an out-of-the-box Glock 19 Gen5 from a FIN Kydex holster, and also to take high overall Distinguished Senior (translation: really old shooter!). I can’t ask for more than that.

Comp-Tac and Armadillo say this vest isn’t just clothing, it’s equipment, and if you need a quick draw I have to agree. For some time now, Comp-Tac has employed world shooting champ Randi Rogers. And they recently hired another great IDPA champion, Gordon Carrell. With that kind of talent on board, you know they’ll make great concealed-carry gear. Price is around $140 but it will last darn near forever, and if canvas sounds heavy, they have their mesh-back CoolShooter option.

An Armadillo vest, a dressy Moss gunbelt and 5.11 pants turned out to be a winning combination for Mas.

Dress Gunbelts

Cops (think John Bianchi) and particularly FBI agents (think Bill Rogers) have come up with some great carry kit. Joining the club is retired Special Agent Mark Moss, who is making some extraordinary leather gear for pistol-packers. I’ve fallen in love with his heavy-duty dress gunbelts. Pricy but worth it, they are hand crafted from the best leather. Sharp enough to wear with a suit, and they hold the holster so solidly in place that I’ve used a Moss belt for my last couple of pistol matches.

Belts are to holsters as tires are to cars: if one is crappy and the other isn’t, the performance you get will still be crappy. A Moss belt can take the place of at least two other belts and last longer, taking the pain out of the premium price. My only caveat: follow his particular measurement instructions very carefully. I didn’t and wound up having to punch a couple of extra holes.

Velcro plus pleats allows low-profile outer pockets.

When split seconds count: Those pockets (left) turn into fast stowage bags. In this timed staged of IDPA
match where Mas had to scoop gun and mags from drawer, the Armadillo vest’s pocket design helped
him win the CCP division.

Pants, Pockets

Most anytime I don’t have to be in a suit, I wear cargo pants. They turns you into a walking file cabinet with everything you need on board. I was a design consultant along with Super Dave Harrington, Gunny Schmidt and the late great Pat Rogers back when EOTAC’s Fernando Coelho was making his superb tactical clothing. With that brand gone, my go-to these days is 5.11. The belt loops are spaced right for holsters. The elastic waistbands makes IWB carry easier and more comfortable. The cell phone pockets are great for magazines and tactical flashlights. The hip pockets are located outboard enough that you’re not sitting on your wallet. The side trouser pockets are ideally suited for small handguns in pocket holsters.

If you need to look more fashionable than tactical, you can get them without cargo pockets and they go fine with sport coat and tie. They’re available in assorted weights and colors and very reasonably priced for their high quality and durability.

Like gun and holster, belt and concealment garb are important to the comfort/discretion/accessibility equation. It’s not a place where we want to compromise on less than the best.


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6 thoughts on “Exclusive: Gun Garb

  1. Mark

    Hardly ever see anyone wearing a vest in Florida, even in colder months. The few old farts like me that have one on were surely packin. I suppose that the vast majority of the public is clueless and wouldn’t notice one way or the other. Still see them as attire for shooting competitions and not viable concealed carry clothing.

    1. Robert

      I have to disagree with Mark from a standpoint of vests not being viable options for concealment. But if I lived in sunny Florida where 90 to 100 degree days were the norm, I might agree. I would suppose it’s a “do as the natives do” kinda thing. In Virginia, we can experience temperature differences for 3 seasons in one day.

      Most folks are innocuous (I believe) to someone wearing a vest. Those in the concealed carry circles know that you’re carrying, I’m certain. But that’s probably because they have one too. Obviously one should strive to dress appropriately for the environment you are going into, lest we forget that carrying a weapon comes with a commitment to a change in dress patterns and lifestyle to a certain degree. Dressing around your chosen carry weapon is a necessity. If you decide to carry a full size 1911, then you’ll need the clothing that matches the concealment requirements for your body. If you’re packing an LCP or Shield, you can get away with short shorts, tube top and roller skates.

      If you’re serious about your personal protection, you’ll have the gear, the mindset and the commitment to make it work. But whatever you’re carrying, and however you’re wearing it, be sure to practice with it OFTEN. Just my 2¢ worth…

  2. Paul Grossman

    I am also an old fart living in Florida, and I can’t imagine wearing a vest. I wear xl happy shirts, and they do the trick.

  3. TRthinker

    I respect Mas’ viewpoints but going into public with this type vest and a 10-8 hat says “shoot me first” to the perps.

  4. Tom Tucker

    The photographers vest (since no one carries film canisters any more) screams shoot me first just as does open carry.

  5. Jim L

    It’s not that I don’t like the vest I still look at it as a shoot me vest. I carry concealed and yes I consider myself more observant than most. I was in a gun store and asked the guy wearing a similar vest what he was carrying. He then proudly displayed his 1911. I proudly pulled my Mdl 49 J frame from my pocket holster. Priceless. Still can’t get the vest look. Sorry


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